The weekend of Dec. 6-8 included a myriad of top rate events at the 25th Annual Chase Country Christmas Celebration. For ardent hockey fans, the game on Saturday night at the Art Holding Memorial Arena was one for the ages.
The top team in Junior B hockey in the province paid a visit to our Chaos Castle after a four-year absence. The Kimberley Dynamiters, sailing on top of the KIJHL standings, were on an 11-game winning run and were close to unstoppable. To let the cat out of the bag, the Chase Heat, on a five0game win streak, stopped the Kaboom Boys in their tracks. The action on the ice was the best the local fans have seen in years, and not a single soul in the joint wished for this contest to end.
At the opening faceoff, the puck dropped and both teams went from 0 to 60 – and the brakes weren’t tapped once. Rookie Jacob Biensch, with his parents in attendance from Saskatchewan, placed the biscuit in the basket on a beauty pass from Heat leading scorer Breckin Erichuk. Heart rates in old guys were bouncing off the charts and the arena defibrillator was put on standby.
In the 2nd stanza, the visitors scored but the noise didn’t stop. Evan Hughes, who is known to put the team on his back, did just that, scoring a spectacular unassisted shorthanded goal, the score 2-1 Chase. With 20 minutes to go in regulation time, veteran Colton Nikiforuk scored 55 seconds in from Hughes. It was now 3-1, and the fans were seeing sugar plums dancing in their heads.
Uncertainty is the next emotion as Kimberley pops in a counter on the man advantage. However, on the power play, the too-hot-to-touch Hayden Wiebe scored from Trevor Kennedy and Caleb Biensch. Kimberley makes it very interesting by scoring with just under four minutes left, but the local hot product held on for a well earned 4-3 win.
The defibrillator was put away and the fans wished for more hockey like what they just witnessed.
While the beast of burden Evan Hughes was the star, this was a complete team effort, including Vince Bennedetto stopping 36 of 39 Dynamite shots with a little help from all his friends.
A Sunday afternoon KIJHL game in Sicamous versus the Eagles was the next task facing the revved up Chase skaters. In the 1st period, Breckin Erichuk scored a beauty with assistance from Gavin Mattey. In the 2nd, Erichuk scored a nicer goal for his second counter aided by Kennedy and Corson Nordick. In the 3rd, Sicamous scored late, but Nikiforuk hit the gas pedal and got that one back from Brandon Gremaud and Hughes. With 5 seconds left, Nikiforuk put icing on the win with an empty net goal from Wiebe and Caleb Biensch.
End result: a nice 4-1 division win with Erichuk and Nikiforuk doing the scoring, and Dylan Barton coming a whisker away from a shutout, stopping 26 of 27 shots.
The HEAT remain in 2nd spot in the Doug Birks Division, three points behind the Revelstoke Grizzlies. Overall, in the 20 team KIJHL, they are in 4th spot behind the Dynamiters, Grizzlies and Kelowna Chiefs. Their winning streak now is at seven games.
Next weekend the Heat hit the highway and play in Osoyoos and Princeton. Tuesday night the 17th they host the 100 Mile House Wranglers at AHMA. Just prior to their Christmas break, the Heat welcome the Kelowna Chiefs on Saturday the 21st. That one is guaranteed to be one to take the kids to as a special gift prior to Christmas.